THE victory will restore a semblance of governability to the administration of President Luiz Indcio Lula da Silva, battered by scandal over accusations of vote-buying and illegal campaign finance involving leaders of his Workers party (PT).
Mr Rebelo won a second-round vote against José Thomas Nonô of the rightwing Liberal Front party (PFL) after the earlier first round resulted in a tie, with both candidates short of a majority. A win for Mr Nonô would have spelled disaster for Mr Lula da Silva; the opposition would have used its resulting control over Congress to weaken the government further and end any chance Mr Lula da Silva might have had of being re-elected in October next year.
Mr Rebelo's victory should enable the government to reduce the scandal's impact.
One member of the government's coalition has been expelled from Congress and three more have resigned their mandates to avoid expulsion. A further 16 are under investigation by the House ethics committee and may be expelled.
"The chances are that the government will let the expulsions take place, getting the scandal out of the way before the end of the year," said David Fleischer, a political scientist in Brasilia. If that happens, Mr Lula da Silva's popularity rating is likely to recover in time for campaigning for next year's elections.
Economic conditions should also work in his favour. Inflation is coming within the government's target of 5.1 per cent for this year, and the central bank began cutting interest rates last month after a year of increases.
Opposition lawmakers accused the government of promising immunity to congressmen suspected of involvement in the corruption scandal in exchange for their votes. Government leaders in Congress denied the accusations.
FT Syndication Service